Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

General James G. Blunt: Tarnished Glory

Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

General James G. Blunt: Tarnished Glory

Article excerpt

General James G. Blunt: Tarnished Glory. By Robert Collins. (Gretna, LA: Pelican, 2005. Pp. 229. Acknowledgments, illustrations, maps, bibliography, index. $23.95.)

It would not be hyperbole to regard Maj. Gen. James G. Blunt as one of the most colorful Union generals of the Civil War. As a political general, closely aligned with the unscrupulous Kansas senator James H. Lane, Blunt was continually embroiled in partisan battles. However, while he was perhaps the most controversial Union general in the Trans-Mississippi theater, his combative bulldog-like persona made him a highly successful battlefield commander. His string of victories at Old Fort Wayne, Cane Hill, Prairie Grove, and Honey Springs are testaments to his audacity. It can be argued that Bhint's aggressive actions during Sterling Price's raid, in 1864, saved a large portion of Kansas from destruction. It was remarkable indeed that during Price's Raid, Maj. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis replaced the West Point-trained Maj. Gen. George Sykes, a former corps commander at Gettysburg, with Blunt, a simple country doctor and farmer who lacked any formal military training.

A thorough scholarly examination of the life and military career of Blunt has been eagerly anticipated by historians and students of the TransMississippi for decades. It is therefore most disappointing that their wait is not over. Regrettably, Robert Collins' General James G. Blunt: Tarnished Glory provides little more than a cursory overview, frequently plagued by errors and egregious omissions.

Claiming a lack of primary source material, Collins states that "Reconstructing the deeds and personality of James G. Blunt isn't easy" (p. 13). However, a plethora of such material does exist. It is troubling that one would attempt to write a biography of Blunt without consulting the general's military records and pension file at the National Archives. For instance, an examination of Record Group 418 would have provided the author with a treasure trove of information related to Blunt's incarceration in St. Elizabeth's Hospital for the Insane, and numerous files are available to help explain his slow decent into insanity. Although consensus has yet to be reached, the presumed cause of Blunt's insanity, according to the records, is "Reverses of Fortune," casting doubt on the author's syphilis hypothesis.

Collins gives scant attention to some of the most important individuals in Blunt's life. …

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